|Nintendo EAD||Game Developer||1996 -||Composer|
|Nintendo EAD||Game Developer||2009 -||Sound Director|
Kenta Nagata is veteran composer at Nintendo EAD who has extensively worked on the Mario Kart and Zelda franchises. Born in 1970, Nagata enjoyed a range of music from a young age and learned to play both the piano and bass. Joining the sound team of Nintendo Entertainment Analysis and Development in 1996, Nagata was soon put in charge of the entire score for Mario Kart 64. Throughout the production, he was conscious to ensure that the score "didn’t simply sound like racing game music" and that the essence of Mario would run through the music. While the final soundtrack featured plenty of retro synthesizers and rock organs, it was still diverse in mood and style — with stage themes ranging from the humorous "Moo Moo Farm", to the haunting "Koopa Castle", to the euphoric "Rainbow Road". The catchy score was commemorated with Japanese, domestic, and ’best of’ soundtrack releases, as well as a club remix album.
Nagata produced a more experimental soundtrack to 1080° Snowboarding thereafter. In order to match the stylish image of the game and appeal to mainstream audiences, he conceived a blend of rock, techno, and hip-hop stylings. While laughable by today’s standards, the voice samples integrated throughout the score were progressive for 1998, pre-dating even Jet Set Radio. The artist went on to lead the scores for Pokémon Stadium and its sequel, both of which boasted several catchy tunes and endearing remixes, between assisting with the music for Mario Artist: Talent Studio. In another major role, he went on produce the field background music for the innovative life simulator Animal Crossing under the supervision of Kazumi Totaka. He added interactivity to the title by ensuring the music adapted to the game’s setting, for instance changing according to time of day.
In 2002, Totaka led the score for the GameCube’s The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. The artist reflected the game’s nautical setting by blending rustic folk / acoustic elements with sweeping orchestral segments. Many of the most memorable themes on the soundtrack were loose, creative arrangements of Koji Kondo’s classic themes from the franchise, for example to represent Outset Island, Windfall Island, and The Great Sea. Among Nagata’s other responsibilities were the memorable themes for the major characters, while his co-composers handled most battle, dungeon, and event music. The well-received soundtrack was subsequently performed at Mario & Zelda Big Band Live, where Nagata also made a guest appearance, and the First Symphonic Game Music Concert in Leipzig. Nagata subsequently produced several compositions and remixes for the compilations The Legend of Zelda Collector’s Edition and Pokémon Box: Ruby & Sapphire.
Nagata returned to the Mario Kart franchise to aid the production of Mario Kart: Double Dash!! Though his fingerprints are featured on several of the score’s tracks, he generally took a backseat on the project and let newcomer Shinobu Tanaka produce most themes, resulting in the soundtrack having a considerably different character overall. Though official confirmation awaits, evidence suggests that Nagata and Tanaka fell in love while working on this project and later married. The artist also took charge of the music for the enhanced DS port Super Mario 64 DS; while most of the soundtrack reprised Koji Kondo’s original score, some music was specifically composed for the new events and mini-games. The artist was also entrusted with the soundtrack for one of Nintendo’s first casual games Big Brain Academy. While most of the soundtrack was composed as muzak, it is well-remembered for its youthful vocal theme, which has since been commemorated in the Touch! Generations Soundtracks.
Nagata recently marked the Zelda series’ return to the seas by scoring The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. He mixed new compositions with plenty of arrangements from The Wind Waker to represent the series’ return to the seas. Already aware of the limited specifications of the DS, he carefully approached the composition and implementation of the score to ensure it still sounded majestic and emotional on the handheld. Always able to multi-task between major scores and bit roles, the artist was also responsible for the music of Link’s Crossbow Training and elected to principally reuse Twilight Princess’ compositions. Nagata also contributed a number of tracks featured in Wii Music. Under the direction of Kazumi Totaka and Hajime Wakai, he added diversity of the score with his extensive experience scoring varied Nintendo projects and took a leading role with the guitar-based tracks.
In 2009, Nagata was promoted to the role of sound director for the first time for 2009’s New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Throughout the project, he carefully considered how to integrate music and sounds into the gameplay in a balanced, sensitive way. Aiming to make the music "as Mario as possible", he often referenced the original Super Mario Bros. during the project and also benefited from the advice of Koji Kondo. In addition to composing many of the stage themes himself, he briefed co-composers Shiho Fujii and Ryo Nagamatsu throughout the project. Most recently, Nagata was responsible for the soundtracks for New Super Mario Bros. 2 and Mario Kart 7 for the 3DS. The soundtrack for the former almost entirely comprised of reprises from the previous two games in the series. By contrast, Nagata took a more progressive approach on his third Mario Kart game — blending diverse new tunes with polished-up renditions of classic themes. The soundtrack is also the most adaptive to date, changing in tempo and timbre according to what is happening on screen.
- Various Game & Album Credits
- Interview with Original Sound Version (English, February 2010)
- Interview with Iwata Asks (English, December 2011)
© Biography by Chris Greening (September 2007). Last updated on January 20, 2013. Do not republish without formal permission.
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